We've been (re-)watching Terriers as part of the TV.com Summer of (Re-)Discovery Club. You'll find links to past installments at the bottom of this story.
Boy oh boy, this one had it all. Intrigue, redemption, answers! There was a lot riding on our last adventure with the Gomez Bros. Britt was on the fast track to jail, and Hank was gearing up for a possibly murderous showdown with Zeitlin, but who knew there'd be another last-minute twist that brought the entire series full circle and raised the stakes while leaving just the right amount of open-endedness? Perfecto. My main request going into "Hail Mary" was that we'd get some conclusive evidence as to what kind of TV character Hank Dolworth would end up being: one who didn't grow all that much beyond his own flaws but could easily be plugged into new mysteries, or the sort who learned from mistakes and realistically developed with the world around him. Each have merits and I am happy to say this final episode made a strong case for both.
(Cue theme music: Caught a ride with a trickster and a javelin man…)
As if it were unclear, Hank summed up the state of things pretty well in stating that the guys' life expectancy was "between that of a fly, and a fly with a heart condition." Had they finally bit off more than they could chew? Possibly, but there wouldn't be much fun in watching our heroes skedaddle off to Mexico without putting up a fight, so luckily Hank explored some options and pumped Gustafson for information (nice touch to see him smoking again).
I wouldn't mind a prequel series about these two. Shame. I honestly didn't know if Britt and Hank were going to overcome all the crap heaped up around them. Yeah they're underdogs, but it seemed like the challenges were charging hard from all angles. Britt was definitely getting two years in con college and worse, he was on the outs with a pregnant Katie. Hank and Gretchen had a scene where she basically sulked over Jason's murder.
I've seen a couple television shows (at least Six Feet Under) where characters dealing with deaths complain about sympathy food. On the one hand, maybe the appetite just plain suffers in mourning, or perhaps we as a society should step up our game in the culinary department when it comes to grievance dishes. Really, go all out next time tragedy strikes and I guarantee no casseroles will wind up in the garbage.
Oddly, I wasn't disappointed in Hank for not telling Gretchen he'd indirectly sent Jason to that liquor store of doom. All his other problems were way more interesting (i.e. Zeitlin), or maybe the writers were saving this confrontation for Season 2, but seriously who wants to tell a sad ex-wife that her spouse's death could have been avoided when his own life is on the line? Gretchen still deserved to know, but I'm not blaming Hank for focusing on the airport stuff while she busied herself with emotional turmoil.
Across town I was impressed a bummed out Britt set aside the prospect of getting drunk and instead hit up Ashley to warn/score some info from her. I've said it before, but mysteries really might be the best defense against alcoholism. In any case, this choice was an indicator of the responsible direction in which his character was moving. Good on you, Britt. Weird though, how cool the Bjork-alike was about helping him out, considering dude had quite literally used her ass. Good thing, too, because we found out Eleanor Gosney attended a meeting with Zeitlin's boss and Lindus. Remember, from the very first episode? Her reintroduction was a nice reminder of the very small stakes that initially motivated Hank's involvement in this Ocean Beach land-grab business in the first place (i.e. bros before rich A-holes).
Much to my surprise, Stephanie reappeared but only peripherally so Laura would have a way to lay low and get a hold of Hank. Out of all of Terriers' wasted characters, I think Stephanie had to be tops. She was cool and all, but represented a less exciting detour for Hank in the overall beach noir world. Or, maybe she was fully effective in drawing attention away from the mystery plot stuff so that when it did return, the audience was thankful. Maybe that's just my conspiracy brain failing.
Speaking of surprises, I was shocked when Hank got arrested for orchestrating the murder of Jason and was in peril of being killed by some ESL patsies. Seriously before Gustafson rescued him I was like, "Oh shit!" and then when I realized what was happening I was all, "Oh yeah!" Hank owes his old partner a gift basket full of vapor cigarettes.
When Laura, Hank, and Britt visited Eleanor it dawned on me that, had she only come clean a while back with everything she experienced involving Lindus and her dad's pals, a lot of the season-long shenanigans may have been avoided, but it's nowhere near a plot hole, just something to toss out there. Plus her cluing the crew into Mickey's jacket led to one of the most satisfying moments in the series, with Hank finally dishing out some much deserved comeuppance to the Tan Man.
Take it, fool! I loved when Hank was all, "...photographs. I was going to see of whom, then this peckerwood pulled a gun on me." It's hard to do a good TV fight; most of the time it's like, "Wait how do all of you know martial arts?" This one was ugly and raw, just like something from Deadwood. But the fun didn't stop there as they proceeded to turn Zeitlin into a frowning coward.
Man, when these dudes have the upper hand and work together it's the best thing ever. Truly the people's champions. Loved when Zeitlin asked about Tan Man, and Britt was all, "Let's just say you can take him off your payroll." Squirm fool! Give up your superiors!
I have to rank this balcony scene where we finally met the dude pulling Zeitlin's strings, Tom Cutshaw (Neal McDonough), as one of the best in the season. San Diego was the perfect backdrop as the two conversed like gods on Olympus essentially debating the correct way to manipulate humans. Yes Hank sometimes took the fate of others into his own hands, but at least his intentions were more just than self-serving. Cutshaw could pretend like building the airport was for the best, but he had approved some very nasty methods to create it and never atoned for a very bad act in his past.
Beyond the disgusting transgression, his fatal flaw was selfishness. He was more concerned with shaping the appearance of things, than accepting a deserved end. The statement, "I work very hard to be a decent man, sometimes something inside me works a little harder" is one that applies to every single human being on the face of the planet, and it's how we handle that "something inside" which ultimately determines the prevalence of good or evil. Hank had that something too, but he fought it and won. Thankfully, that meant letting Gretchen move on, and for Britt it meant making amends with Katie. But just when it seemed like everything was wrapped up, in true Terriers form we were left with an impressive update of the genre. Having defeated the bad guys, our heroes still had to address personal demons and debated whether or not to drive off into the sunset.
From start to finish Terriers was a very satisfying viewing experience. I had some problems with a few of the one-off mysteries and the Stephanie plotline (i.e. wish this time was spent diving deeper into the O.B. land grab and Hank's growth), but these are hardly the show's fault as I'm sure future seasons would have used every last established detail to create a fuller, more expansive story. Most importantly, I wanted my terrible crime at the bottom of all this and Lord did I get it (there are few things more criminal than Cutshaw's powerful adult self corrupting a weaker youth). As far as the final scene with Hank and Britt in the truck, I usually hate vague endings (I expect the writer to have a clear enough vision that she can use the end as a final statement—looking at you, Lost in Translation), but this one totally worked because it summed up the bigger story.
A theme at play during the entire season was the ephemeral nature of "justice," and particularly how it related to Hank. Since Britt and Hank saved the city, had they earned the right to skip out on punishment, or was that just a self-serving interpretation? If the decision to go to Mexico had been made, Britt's worried glance could represent his fear at possibly never seeing Katie again. Otherwise, it meant parting ways with Hank (for at least the time served in prison). In either scenario, Hank finally relinquished his influence over the choices of others. For what it's worth, I believe Britt decided to pay his dues in prison, but if we're seeing Dolworth's journey as the heart of Terriers, then the ending was Hank learning to separate the personal from the criminal.
"Hail Mary": 10/10 Dog Biscuits and Induction Into the Canine Hall of Fame
QUESTION: – Did Britt and Hank drive to Mexico?
(If you're really curious, Ted Griffin has outlined pretty clearly what choice was made.)
– Terriers Episodes 11-12: Flashbacks and Setbacks
– Terriers Episodes 9-10: Making Things Right and Wrong
– Terriers Episodes 7-8: Goodbye and Hello Again
– Terriers Episodes 5-6: Dead Deals and Blue Romance
– Terriers Episodes 3-4: Fakery and Foolishness
– Terriers Episodes 1-2: Killer Waves and Sunny Crimes
– Announcing the TV.com Summer of (Re-)Discovery Club!